English courses for international students to increase this fall

The University will add about 30 percent more language courses for non-native English speakers this fall, as administrators predict even greater international student growth.

GW has steadily added the for-credit courses in the English for Academic Purposes program, which are mandatory for foreign students lacking English skills, as it amps up its recruiting of international students. For instance, the number of Chinese students has increased fourfold in the last five years.

The University will offer a total of 44 sections, most of which are geared toward the graduate student population, which swelled by a quarter last year. The University also will offer more English skills classes in the summer to better acclimate students to GW and the U.S.

The wider language offerings come as the University is expecting a larger international student population in the Class of 2017. While the number of students enrolling in GW next year is not yet finalized, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said he believed the number of international students would again outpace last year’s.

“Last year we had about, a little bit under 10 percent, and I would expect us to have a little bit over this year,” he said Thursday.

The University will also offer three types of English for Academic Purposes classes for undergraduates this fall, compared to the one offering last year. The number of foreign undergraduates increased by 16 percent last year.

Megan Siczek, an English for Academic Purposes professor, said the program expects more graduate students to take the summer courses than undergraduates, especially those graduate students admitted to the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the GW School of Business.

The Writing Center has needed to adjust to the rising number of appointments made by international students. The office’s director, Christine Zink, said that foreign students comprised 47 percent of appointments last fall, adding that the data for the entire school year was not yet available.

“We’ve found this year, as we’ve paid close attention to our international student population, that tutors are often working with those students to help them understand the mindset and conventions of academic writing in the American university, so those conversations about the assignment itself and its expectations are an important part of our work,” she said.

The University is looking to ultimately fill 15 percent of its undergraduate population from abroad – a goal outlined in its decade-long strategic plan. Typically, international students pay the full sticker price, which benefits the tuition-dependent GW as it attempts to make its mark as a global institution.

The English for Academic Purposes program was once an obscure part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, but Dean Peg Barratt said the department was forced to bulk up as the number of international students increased.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re not seriously changing the nature of the class. It really does help students a lot and we’re going to keep doing it,” she said.

Barratt said most international students that come to the University have adequate reading and listening skills, but need additional help with their speaking and writing skills.

The outgoing dean added that graduate students would cease to take placement exams this year, but would instead be placed in classes based off of English exam scores required for admission to the University. She said the change would save time for the students and department.

Siczek said earlier this year that the program should be able to handle the increased students, but, “in general, we would benefit from more staffing and more space.”

Charles Mueller, an assistant professor of English for academic purposes, added that the program still needed more technology-equipped classrooms and tutors for one-on-one support. Barratt said the college would continue to evaluate the program’s needs accordingly.

-Catherine Barnao and Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report

This post was updated May 14, 2013 to reflect the following:

Correction appended
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the English for Academic Purposes courses for not-for-credit. The courses count for academic credit. We regret this error.

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